Remembering when Lionel Messi came up against a 35-year-old Alessandro Nesta

AC Milan's defender Alessandro Nesta (R)

They don’t make them like Alessandro Nesta anymore.

Italy has a reputation for producing world-class defenders and Nesta can be considered alongside Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi as one of best to come out of the European nation.

During a career that spanned more than two decades, Nesta won three Serie A titles - one with Lazio, two with AC Milan - and the Champions League on two occasions.

He was also a part of the Italy squad that won the 2006 World Cup, although an injury suffered in the group stage prevented him from appearing in the knockout rounds and the final.

Nesta bowed out of the game rather quietly, playing a handful of games for Indian Super League side Chennaiyin FC in 2014, but it will be on the biggest stages where he is most remembered.

One of his toughest challenges came in the 2011-12 season, when AC Milan played against Barcelona on four separate occasions.

The two sides were placed in the same Champions League group, with Barcelona finishing top and Milan coming second.

Messi v Nesta

Then, after both successfully navigating their round-of-16 matches, they were drawn against each other in the quarter-finals.

Barcelona prevailed, following up a 0-0 draw at the San Siro with a 3-1 victory at the Camp Nou in the return leg.

Yet their first meeting in the 2011-12 season featured a moment that showed just why Nesta will be remembered as an all-time great.

It was in Spain, with Barcelona hosting the Italian club in their first group match.

FC Barcelona v AC Milan - UEFA Champions League

At the time, Lionel Messi was close to the peak of his powers. He scored 73 goals - yes, really - in all competitions in the 2011-12 season.

And he thought he could beat Nesta, who was 35-years-old, for pace.

But Nesta marshalled Messi expertly, closing the gap and then timing his tackle perfectly to deny the Barcelona star a shot at goal.

Messi reacted by slamming both hands on the turf. It’s rare to see him angry, but it was the result of continuously being denied by Nesta.

Nesta couldn’t deny Messi forever - the Argentine forward scored in the second group stage meeting between the sides, and followed that up with a brace in the 3-1 quarter-final win.

But his display on September 13, 2011, will live long in Messi’s memory.

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